Watching a family as they say goodbye to a loved one in hospice is heart-rending. So many raw emotions come to the surface. It is at these times that people become caught up in their own grief, and in bedside conversations with others forget that their dying family member is likely aware of what is being said, even if it may not appear so. Although there is no hard evidence, it is believed by many that hearing is the last sense to leave when someone is dying. Make a conscious effort to gift your loved one with precious memories.
Here are just a few suggestions on how to better deal with a family member in hospice. Remember, they are uncomfortable, and probably scared, so their emotions may run the gamut from loving to angry.
- To avoid any unnecessary faux pas or hurtful statements, focus on the happier times you shared with them and your memories of those events. If your loved one is conscious but unable to speak, hold their hand during the conversation. Ask them to squeeze your hand or blink if they remember the story.
- If you’re concerned with your loved one’s spirits or are trying to raise your own, ask to speak with the clergy assigned to the hospice team or to a bereavement counselor. You may also want to seek out your spiritual leader for advice.
- Try to understand what your dying loved one is dealing with. Allow them to open up to you about their fears, memories, regrets, etc. but don’t force the conversation if they are not ready to have it. If they do start to talk about it, all you have to do is listen to what they have to say and offer comfort and solace when they express their anxiety or fears. Ask if there is anything that you can do to put their mind at ease or to make them more comfortable. They will appreciate it more than you’ll ever know.
- If your family member is anxious, agitated or just tired, speak in a gentle, calming voice, letting them know that you are there for them and that you care.
- If you want some alone time with your dying family member, it’s okay to ask others in the room, including staff, to leave for a few moments so you can have some time alone with them. There are some things you may want to share with them that you would prefer no one else hear.
- Keep your visits short (about 15 to 30 minutes). When someone is in hospice, their body is being ravaged by terminal illness, making them exhausted. Respect their time.
- Keep in mind that you are not the only one going through the end of life process. Your ill loved one is too, and they may feel totally unprepared for it. Put their needs first for the time being and make sure that they get all the support they need from family, friends and hospice staff.
Dying is part of the life cycle, but that doesn’t make it any more pleasant or less emotionally volatile for those involved. Be kind, be respectful, and let your loved one know that their existence matters and that you will always hold memories of them in your heart. That will be the best gift you can give to them.
How Luxe Hospice Can Help
Luxe Hospice recognizes the pressure having a family member in hospice puts on the entire family. This is why we address the needs of everyone involved, from the patient to their loved ones, offering hospice services in the Pacific Palisade, Malibu, Santa Monica, Brentwood and Bel Air areas.
Hospice care is generally covered through the Hospice Medicare Benefit as well as through many private insurers.